What would you do if you found $2200 on the road?
By Kristen Meriwether, Editor LPR
Dec. 29 started out like any other for Rene Borja. As the manager of the Family Dollar in Lockhart, he did his paperwork, grabbed the deposit, and went to his car for the morning drive to the bank.
But when he got to the bank, he reached for the deposit bag in his passenger seat and found it was missing. He ran back to the store thinking he accidentally left it on the safe—but it wasn’t there.
Panic started to settle in. As he began to replay the events of the morning, he realized he had broken his routine by getting something from the back seat. He had set the bag on the roof of his car and drove off.
“I knew what I had done and realized, oh my gosh, it flew off!” Borja said in an interview on Jan. 8.
He immediately drove the route from the store to the bank at a snail’s pace, frantically looking for the lost bag of nearly $2200 in cash. Cars honked, but he didn’t care. He knew his job was on the line.
He returned to the store and other employees began to show up to open the store. An employee volunteered to ride his skateboard up and down the road. Borjas even called the city to see if he could get the manhole cover removed to check the sewer.
All roads came up empty.
He called his district manager and she said, honest mistake or not, she had to call Loss Prevention to report the money missing.
“It doesn’t look good, you are probably going to be terminated,” Borjas recalled his manager saying.
He sat down in the office, the weight of what was about to happen hitting him. He had finally recovered from COVID but nagging issues with his gallbladder would require surgery. He was two days from getting insurance through his job. This silly mistake was going to cost him everything.
An assistant manager knocked on the door, breaking Borjas’ train of thought. He pulled a bank bag from behind his back and said, “here you go, this gentleman just returned it.”
Borjas opened the bag to find the money untouched, every penny accounted for. He ran back up to the front to find his hero, but the man was already gone.
“Me and my wife were wrapping my head around it…$2,141 in cash,” Borjas said. “How many people would have honestly returned that?”
Paying it Forward
Thanks to the power of Facebook Borjas was able to find the man, Mike Abbott, later that evening. He offered to give Abbott $100 of his personal money as a reward, but Abbott was having none of it.
Unable to shake the desire to thank his hero, Borjas turned to his network of local business owners and regular customers, some of whom had already offered freebies in the Facebook post. Borjas began taking up a collection, and by Jan. 8 he had $418 in cash, and $215 in gift cards.
The pair finally met at the Family Dollar on Jan. 8. In an interview with LPR after the meeting Abbott said he was really surprised by the outpouring of support for his kind act. He had found purses and wallets in the past as a delivery driver and had always returned them.
“It never crossed my mind on keeping the money,” Abbott said by phone. “I knew whoever lost it, it would probably mean their job.”
He humbly accepted the reward money because his family needs a new water heater. But he decided to donate the gift cards back to Borjas to give to anyone he saw in need.
“We had a really blessed Christmas with the fact that we were given two used vehicles from family and it really made a difference for us,” Abbott said. “Between my health and my kid’s health, I really didn’t have the time to give back. So I’m hoping those gift cards can help somebody out.”
Abbott adopted two special needs children, a boy with autism and his granddaughter who also suffers from autism and has numerous medical issues. Going out to dinner or even a store can be challenging, and it’s not something he does often.
He told LPR he’d love to attend some kind of community picnic or summertime pool party where other parents of special needs kids can meet, relax, and not have to worry.
“It would be in an area where the kids can’t run off, the families can relax and be with and meet other families who have special needs kids,” Abbott said.
There was no “special needs picnic” gift cards in the collection taken up by Borjas. But given the outpouring of support and gratitude so far, anything’s possible.